A guest post by Caroline Whitehead
Read Caroline’s first blog post about the parasol collection at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums here.
Caring for your parasol
Parasols were fragile – the silk split quite easily due to the fact that the cover was under tension when put up. The vulnerable tip or ‘ferrule’, frequently made from ivory or bone, was easily snapped off. So, not surprisingly, department stores offered a re-covering service for umbrellas and parasols. Women’s magazines recommended putting aside 7 shillings out of a dress allowance of £10 a year for an umbrella or having it re-covered. 
Parasols were kept closed with a variety of closures from metal or ivory rings, cords, tassels and eventually the kind of band and button or press-stud that we see on umbrellas today.
The collection has some lovely extravagant parasols trimmed with lace and chiffon, with fancy handles from carved ivory, knotted and bent bamboo, and printed and painted porcelain knobs. Decoration knows no bounds in some cases where parasols are festooned with lace, ribbons, fringing, tassels and pompoms.
Parasols were a must-have accessory until the late 1920s when suntans started to become fashionable. By the 1930s they had all but died out – and were flirted with briefly (as surely befits all parasols!) in the post-war years.
We don’t know whether any of the parasols were made or bought locally, as we haven’t found any such maker’s marks or labels. But we do know that umbrellas and parasols were at least sold here.
One of the main manufacturers of umbrellas and parasols was S. Fox & Co. Ltd. of Stocksbridge, nearSheffield. The Collection has 8 Fox’s parasols. The firm is still going after 166 years. This is my favourite Fox parasol – with its bold print of peacocks and flowers, probably dating from the 1910s.
Mystery makers – Can you Help?
We have some parasols with maker’s labels and marks – but they are a mystery to us. Can you help identify them?
Gauntlet – British Make – Too Good to Lose
Found on a parasol dating 1862-1870.
E & C London
The Collection has about 20 umbrellas, but perhaps their story will have to wait for a rainy day!
3. Jeremy Farrell, The Costume Accessories Series: Umbrellas and Parasols, Batsford, 1985, p. 17